Archive for April 10th, 2010

10
Apr
10

PERSONALITIES BEHIND BRANDS IN THE LEVANT


Interview with Communicate Magazine

1. Branding experts tend to agree that there are only a handful of famous personalities who lead their brands in the Levant, and in Lebanon in particular. Do you agree? Why/ why not?

Yes I agree, but this is just a detail. I think that we have to understand the reasons:

We are small geographies where not too many large brands can thrive. It is a fact that most (if not all) the brands who have personalities leading them, are large organizations, or at least became one.

We are unfortunately a rather indifferent population. Whereas in the West, everyone knows Steve Jobs for instance, very few people in Lebanon know who stands behind big brands, unless he or she have their full name in the brand!

There is an important reason behind that; people simply don’t care about the efforts the brand is doing to position itself in their hearts and minds, and the best substantiation for that is the flourishing of the counterfeits and fakes industry.

Most of the brands created in Lebanon or the Levant revolve either around existing formats, (such as fast food), or carry themselves famous international brands, which help establish the master-brand (such as fashion and accessories). The secret of the people behind brands is innovation, and unfortunately, so far, that’s one rare ingredient.

Last but not least, there are only a handful of famous personalities, simply because there are only a handful of new, “un-inherited” brands, or ones that were built on the vision of people, and managed to make through the years.

2. Who do you think is the personality that mirrors its brand so perfectly well in the Levant and what do you think of this association between the brand and its leader?

As far as I am concerned, none, and trust me, I am not happy about that answer.

3. What in your opinion are the pros and cons from associating the brand leader with his brand, especially in Lebanon?

Globally speaking, it depends on what that brand leader did for the brand and mostly what are his future vision as well. I don’t really know how much these apply to Lebanon. I hope people will forgive me, but “brand” is not sales, marketing, products, location, salaries, public relations, advertising, expensive cars and Armani suits… Brands are like a religion, where you, the leader is the servant of this brand. Moreover, we always have a tendency, especially in Lebanon and the Levant, to forget “who” made the brand, and we constantly have to be reminded that the customer made brands what they are. People behind a brand become brand leaders only when they understand that factor and act upon it. Once more, Steve Jobs is worshiped, if he’s sick, Apple’s stock tumbles, and users go crazy. Name me just one one similar case in the region.

4. Lebanon is known to be a fertile ground for building great brands, and there are countless success stories that attest to that. But why do you think many of the CEO’s of those brands opt to stay behind the scenes?

They don’t opt to. They’re simply left behind by the brand itself that just swooshed past them. That CEO has to be, or become, the precursor, the brain behind the brand. He or she has to be the sole influence, the guru staff and clients look at with respect (not fear by the way). Creating a brand is simple, making it famous is even easier. Just pump in a big advertising budget, fill the media with the brand name and voilà.
The question is, does it make the brand powerful? Does it make the person behind it the personality, the custodian of that brand?

So, I guess we have to go back to the original definition of “great brands”.

5. What do you think are the criteria that can guarantee a successful association between a brand and its leader in this part of the world?

Simple: CEOs get busy managing the organization, whereby they should be managing the brand.
God knows how sure I am of that. As a branding expert, I spend half my time persuading companies executives to invest in their brands, and the other half arguing about what we charge and why a fresh university graduate cannot do it!

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